Information About Turkey

This part of our website is long and very informative.  You may read it from the beginning or you can jump to any topic by selecting from the contents list.  This information was compiled by James Crandall.  He has lived and worked in Turkey for several years and will continue to do so.  James has traveled throughout Turkey as well as Egypt and Israel.  He has always maintained that Turkey and the Arab countries are distinct from each other.

 

Contents

 

General Information:

Cultural / Ethnic:

History:

The People:


Places in Turkey:

The Turkish Republic:

Concerns:

 

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General Information:

 

Turkey’s Tourist Information Offices

Turkey has several tourist information offices.  Here are some:

 

Australia Turkish Information Office
Level 3, Room 17
428 George Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Tel:
Fax:
2-922-33055
2-922-33204
Canada Turkish Tourism Office
360 Albert Street
Suite 801
Ottawa, ON K1R 7X7
Tel:
Fax:
(613) 230-8654
(613) 230-3683
Israel Turkish Embassy Information Office
1 Ben Yehuda
63801 Tel Aviv
Tel:

Fax:
3-517 6157
or 517 1731
3-517 6303
UK Turkish Embassy Information Counsellor’s Office
First Floor
170-173 Piccadilly
London W1J 9EJ
Tel:

Fax:
(207) 629-7771
or 355-4207
(207) 491-0773
USA Office of the Turkish Tourism Information Attache
821 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
Tel:

Fax:
(212) 687-2194,
95, 96
(212) 599-7568
Turkish Tourism Information Office
2525 Mass. Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20006
Tel:
Fax:
(202) 612-6800
(202) 319-7446

 

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Passport, Visa Cost & Duration

Each visitor will need a passport.  If a visa is necessary, it can be obtained when arriving in Turkey.  As of June 2002:


COUNTRY
Australia
Canada
Ireland
Israel
New Zealand
South Africa
UK
USA
COST
US $20
US $45
US $10
Free, no visa needed
Free, no visa needed
Free, no visa needed
UK £10
US $45
DURATION
3 months
3 months
3 months
3 months
3 months
1 months
3 months
3 months

 

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Currency & Credit Cards

The currency used in Turkey is the Lira (also frequently called New Turkish Lira or YTL).  It is fully convertible and therefore there is no black market exchange.  There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into Turkey.  Travelers cheques or cash in US dollars, Euros and British Pounds can be easily changed throughout Turkey.  Other currencies can be less easily changed.

 

Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in hotels, major stores and most tourist areas.  American Express and Diners Club are not widely accepted.  Credit cards are less accepted in rural areas, however most any credit card can be used at a local bank’s ATM or cash point to draw cash.

 

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Time Differences

Turkey is located in the East European Time zone and thus it is:


ahead
2 hours of London & Dublin.
7 hours of New York City & Ottawa.
10 hours of Los Angeles & Vancouver
behind
6 hours of Perth.
8 hours of Sydney.
10 hours of Auckland.
the same as
Jerusalem & Johannesburg

 

Turkey observes daylight savings time usually starting the last Sunday of March and continuing to the last Sunday of October.  During the Southern Hemisphere’s summer, Turkey will be an additional 2 hours behind Perth, Sydney and Auckland.

 

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Weekends & Holidays

Turkey’s weekend is the same as in other Western countries, i.e. Saturday and Sunday.

 

All museums, historic sites and shopping opportunities are unaffected during each of Turkey’s public holidays:  1 January, 23 April, 19 May, 30 August, the afternoon of 28 October, and 29 October.  Furthermore, Ekstra Tourism will be open and available for assistance during any public holiday if there is a group arriving to Turkey and/or on tour in the country.

 

Each year there are two religious holidays in Turkey.  These last 3.5 days and 4.5 days and occur at different times each year.  All museums and historic sites are unaffected except for the first morning of each religious holiday.  Shopping opportunities will be limited because most stores will be closed.  However, Ekstra Tourism will be open and available for assistance during any religious holiday if there is a group arriving to Turkey or on tour in the country.

 

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Electricity

The voltage is 220 V and 50 cycles.  The plugs are of the two round prong European style.

 

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Shopping

Most people visiting Turkey for the first time are surprised not only by the variety of things on sale but also by the number of choices available in each category.  Turkey is justly well known for its carpets, flat weave rugs and ceramics/tiles.  But the quality, variety and value of its gold, silver or amber jewelry, leather goods, silks, crafted metalwork, and inlaid wooden items may very well amaze you.

 

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Books about Turkey

Ever since Homer’s time, many authors have written something about Turkey.  Sometimes a book’s title may be changed for a given country.  If a particular title listed here cannot be located, then it may be best to search for it first by author.  This list is not intended to be complete nor is any book mentioned here somehow implied to be “superior” to those that have not been included.  Book descriptions and reviews are not difficult to locate and so none have been given here.

 

Archeology:

  • Ancient Civilisations and Ruins of Turkey by Ekrem Akurgal.
  • Aegean Turkey, An Archeological Guide by George E. Bean.

 

Religious:

  • Turkey’s Religious Sites by Anna G. Edmonds.
  • Biblical Sites in Turkey by Everett C. Blake and Anna G. Edmonds.

 

Historical:

  •  A Short History of Byzantium by John Julius Norwich.
  • The Fall of Constantinople 1453 by Sir Steven Runciman.
  • The Ottoman Centuries by Lord Kinross (JPD Balfour).
  • The Ottoman Turks by Justin McCarthy.
  • Gallipoli by Alan Moorhead.

 

Modern/Republican Turkey:

  • Atatürk, the Rebirth of a Nation or Atatürk: A Biography of Mustafa Kemal by Lord Kinross (JPD Balfour).
  • Atatürk by Andrew Mango.
  • A Short History of Turkey by Roderic Davison.

 

Travelogues:

  • Turkish Reflections by Mary Lee Settle.
  • A Fez of the Heart by Jeremy Seal.
  • Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain.

 

Fiction:

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie.
  • The Bride of Suleiman by Aileen Crawley.

 

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Cultural / Ethnic:

 

The Minorities:  Kurds, Arabs, etc.

Of the approximately 70 million people who live in Turkey, the largest minority group is the Kurds which make up about 10% of the total population.  Most Kurds live in eastern Turkey but a sizable number live in Istanbul.  Turkey’s small ethnic Arab population is found mostly in the southeast part of the country.  In the Black Sea region of Turkey there are two groups, Laz and Hemshin, that are well known in Turkey and have inter-married with ethnic Turks for a long time.  Except for a small minority, members of the above groups are Moslem.  The other ethnic groups together make up about 1% of the total population.  Most of them are Orthodox (Armenian, Greek, Syrian) as well as a group of Sephardic Jews.  It must be said that each group has its own language, a long history and traditions.

 

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European or Middle Eastern?

Geographically speaking, Turkey is on both the European and Asian continents.  Some 97% of the country is in Asia and is called Anatolia.  The old name, Asia Minor, is from the ancient Romans and its use is not in favor.  The other part of Turkey is in a part of Europe called Thrace.  Thrace is a region that extends into Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.  Istanbul is the only city that is located on two continents.

 

Culturally, for much of history this region was Middle Eastern.  However, the present culture has very little resemblance to what was.  Efforts to modernize along Western lines started well over a hundred years ago and were greatly accelerated starting in the 1920’s.  The result has been a modern and dynamic Turkey that is decidedly Western.

 

Of course not all past cultural practices have been erased.  Rather, some have evolved and to varying degrees been incorporated into modern Turkey.  This is particularly true regarding expressions of respect and behavior toward elders.

 

Because of events and frequent news reporting from the Middle East, many people automatically think that Turkey is no different from the Arab countries.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The differences are numerous and striking.

 

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Cuisine

Turkey has an exceedingly varied cuisine.  There are many creative vegetable dishes made with or without meat or olive oil.  High quality bread will always be served.  Yogurt, olives, white cheese and fruit will often complement a meal.  The desserts are numerous and famously sweet!  Usually an evening meal is preceded by a wide selection of appetizers.  It can easily happen that appetizers themselves are enough for a complete meal!  It would be unusual to find a person who did not enjoy eating in Turkey.  Vegetarian diets can be easily accommodated.

 

Alcohol often accompanies an evening meal.  There are several choices of locally made beer and wine but the most common alcoholic drink is raki.  This national drink is anise-flavored and is usually mixed 50/50 with water.  It is customary to drink raki while eating appetizers.

 

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History:

 

A very brief overview

The history of Turkey is truly immense.  Archeologists have examined sites thought to be the oldest human communities.  The western world’s first historian (Strabo) grew up and traveled in Anatolia.  The same is true for the founder of western literature (Homer).  Several sites in Turkey are specifically mentioned in the Old & New Testaments.  Even Caesar was here when he said,  “Veni. Vedi. Vici.”

 

If you are interested in history, then you’re likely to enjoy what Turkey has to offer.  Even a partial list of past cultures & empires is impressive:  The Hittites, Assyrians, Phrygians, Urartians, Lydians, Hellenic City States, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk, Ottoman.  Remarkably, Turkey has more ancient Greek ruins (and in better condition) than Greece.  The same is also true for ancient Roman ruins compared to Italy!

 

It must be mentioned that Turkey is unusually rich in religious history with several places mentioned in both the Old Testament and New Testament.  People interested in religion-based tours are encouraged to review our tour programs.

 

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Archeology

Modern archeology in Turkey will always be on-going because there is so much to be done.  Also on-going are the controversies stemming from the initial excavations at Troy and Pergamum.  Such controversies are unlikely to be repeated as excavations are carefully controlled and monitored. 

 

Visits to archeological sites (either previously excavated or currently undergoing excavation) can be arranged.  Several of our standard tours are to archeological sites.  Please contact our head office in Istanbul if you wish us to make a special archeology program.

 

PLEASE NOTE:  It can’t be stressed enough that it is illegal in Turkey to buy, sell, possess or export antiquities.  This is a particularly sensitive subject and it must not be taken lightly.  There is however a procedure that allows for purchasing and exporting valuable items provided they are not older than several centuries.  Of course excellent fakes are  exempt!

 

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The People:

 

Languages

Other than a few foreign words, most people in Turkey speak only Turkish.  However, when necessary, a person who understands and speaks English can be easily located.  Also English is routinely spoken in the hotels and tourist areas.  In Turkey there are approximately as many German speakers as there are English speakers.  French is less frequently spoken.  While visiting, you will never have much difficulty being understood as long as you have a little patience and humor.  Turkey has been the world’s “crossroads” for a very long time and so communication difficulties are usually minor and momentary.  Some people have asked why many people in Turkey are not bilingual.  This is a good question!  The responses are varied but it may stem from the fact that Turkey was never a colony of a western European country.

 

Turkish originated in Mongolia.  In one form or another it is spoken from the Balkans to western China.  It has an amazingly regular grammar.  Modern Turkish is entirely phonetic and uses Latin-based letters that certainly makes words more recognizable for most foreigners.  It is also fairly rich in nouns of French or English origin.  However, Turkish has a very unusual grammar and is considered a difficult language to master.  Although the words may sound strange to you, try to learn and use a few of them.  The Turks will genuinely appreciate your effort and very likely you’ll feel good when you see their positive reactions.

 

People in Turkey genuinely appreciate it when visitors try to speak a few words in Turkish.  They will not be shy about showing their surprise and happiness to share a few pleasant words in Turkish with you.  Here are a few words to help you get started!

 

hello
good day
yes
no
merhaba
iyi gunler
evet
hayir, yok
good bye
please
thank you
sorry
gule gule
lutfen
tesekkur ederim
afedersiniz

 

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Hospitality

Hospitality and friendliness are very important in Turkish culture.  It is said a visitor brings honor to one’s home.  No doubt many times you will be welcomed and made to feel comfortable.  It is common to be offered a glass of tea or a sweet by a shopkeeper or to pour some lemon cologne into a guest’s hands so he/she can freshen up.

 

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Religion

Turkey is a Moslem country but most Turks are moderate in every meaning of the word.  If you come to Turkey expecting to see widespread public display of devotion to Allah, you will be disappointed.  Starting early each morning the call to prayer is broadcast five times a day from each mosque’s loudspeakers but most people pay no attention.  This is not to say there are no religiously conservative people in Turkey.  There are, but they probably don’t fit the image that may appear on your TV evening news.

 

Mosques can be visited whether or not the visitors follow Islam.  All people follow norms when they visit their places of worship.  If you have a place of worship, you probably have a good idea what kind of dress and behavior are appropriate for each person whether or not he/she is a visitor.

 

You are encouraged to visit some of the mosques in Turkey.  It has more mosques than any other country and several of them are truly exceptional.  When visiting a mosque, please keep the following in mind:

  • Everybody must remove their shoes or sandals before entering.  If the entrance is carpeted, then remove the shoes before stepping on the carpet.  You can carry your shoes or put them on a shelf like everyone else.
  • Everybody must cover their shoulders and legs.  Long skirts are fine (for women that is!).
  • Women are expected to cover their hair.  This doesn’t mean every strand of hair must be covered!  This is typically and easily done with a scarf.  If you don’t have a scarf, one will probably be quickly lent to you.
  • Understandably, if people are praying, they may feel uncomfortable if you are talking above a whisper, photographing or walking in front of them.
  • Except for mosques which are frequently visited by tourists, it is more respectful not to visit shortly after a call to prayer.  On the other hand, if you want to visit a particular mosque that is normally not open all the time, it’s best to time your visit at the call to prayer so as to have time for a brief visit.

 

Visits to Turkey’s churches are usually easy during Sundays and holidays.  A visit any other time is possible but it maybe necessary to make an appointment or to search for someone to open the church.  Appointments will be made if your tour program includes church visits.

 

Visits to Turkey’s synagogues require an appointment.  Appointments will be made if your tour program includes synagogue visits.

 

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Behavior

Each country has its customs concerning behaviors.  In Turkey:

  • Friends frequently kiss each other on both cheeks upon meeting and/or leaving.  This is true for women & men as well as between men and between women.  This is never done when two people meet for the first time.  If you are uncomfortable with this custom for any reason or at any time, then don’t do it.  A handshake is perfectly acceptable.
  • Other than social kissing on the cheeks, there is very little public touching between the sexes.  Walking while holding hands (or arm-in-arm) or a romantic kiss is normally not done.
  • You may see two or more women (or men) walking together with their arms hooked at the elbow.  This only means they are good friends and for the time being they are going in the same direction.  It is less common to see a man and woman walking this way.
  • People dress conservatively in conservative areas.  Clothes that are appropriate for a beach or resort hotel would draw unwelcome attention at any village market.  When in doubt, keep the shoulders and legs covered.
  • It is possible that people may stare at you more than you are accustomed to.  It isn’t thought of as bad or rude behavior.  Mostly people are just curious in an innocent way and you should think nothing of it.  If a man stares at a woman, she is not expected to return the stare because that would convey a very strong (and likely unintended) message.  An interesting variation of this theme:  If a man and woman are together in a conservative area (shopping, dining, sight-seeing), a shopkeeper (or other man) may only speak to and look directly at the man but not the woman.  Even if she asks a question he might answer without looking directly at her.  In this situation he wouldn’t look directly at her as a sign of respect to her (and to her presumed husband).

 

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Alcohol & drugs

Although alcohol is widely available and drunk by many Turks, public drunkenness is rare and frowned upon.  It is viewed as a lack of self-control or self-respect.

 

Drugs (other than medicines purchased from a pharmacy/chemist) are to be avoided under all circumstances.  This can’t be stressed enough as it is a very serious and sensitive subject.  Though unlikely, should you be approached by a drug dealer, just say no in a loud voice and you can be sure he will disappear quick enough.  There are simply no compromises on this subject.

 

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Sensitive issues

Turks are a very friendly and engaging people.  They are also very proud of their country & culture as well as the principles of the Turkish Republic & its founder, Atatürk.  Much to their credit they are easy going and quick to forgive if something unpleasant was in fact a simple misunderstanding.  They are very tolerant of foreigners and their different behaviors but they will appreciate your efforts to conform somewhat to their customs.

 

With that said, Turks also feel they have been wrongly portrayed on many occasions and some people are very sensitive about this.  The issues are invariably detailed and have been on-going, some for a very long time.  Inquiry into such issues is probably best done by reading books (preferably alone) and leaving it at that.  If you should find yourself involved in a discussion concerning a sensitive subject, unless your diplomatic skills are excellent, you may find it best to just excuse yourself or at the very least confess ignorance and let the other person(s) air their views and then discreetly change the subject.

 

Sensitive issues that you should be careful about:

  • Events relating to the Armenian people during the time of the Ottoman Empire.
  • Political subjects related to the European Union, Cyprus and the PKK.
  • Anything that may be understood as negative about or disrespectful to:  The Turkish Republic, its flag and  Atatürk who was instrumental in the formation of the republic.

 

To repeat yet again:  In Turkey never buy, sell or transport any antiquity or illegal drug.

 

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Some misconceptions

The world would probably be a better place if there were fewer misconceptions.  Here are some misconceptions about Turkey:

  • Turkey is in the Middle East and it’s full of Arabs.  Well, first there is nothing inherently wrong with the Middle East or Arabs.  However the large majority of people in Turkey are ethnic Turks.  They and their culture are distinct.  The distinction has been highlighted because over the years Turkey has taken in millions of ethnic Turks from neighboring countries.
  • Turkey has many camels and nomads.  Actually there are now almost no camels.  The days of the Silk Road and caravans are long gone.  Sometimes a tourist area will have a colorfully dressed camel or two ready to have their picture taken.  Turkey does have a few nomadic groups.  Mostly they herd goats and/or sheep and migrate to the highlands in summer and back to the lowlands in winter.  The women of some nomadic groups make unique flat weave rugs filled with traditional symbols.
  • Turkey is no different from the rest of the Middle East.  Oh really?
  • Meaning and use of the word “Ottoman”.  This word is historical because the Republic of Turkey has replaced the government of the Ottoman Empire.  The term “Ottoman” can be misunderstood because it has nothing to do with race or ethnic background.  Individuals from many different groups called themselves Ottomans.  Also members of various ethnic minorities were often part of the “ruling class”.  Though the Ottoman Empire was started by a group of Turks, it quickly became a conglomeration of many different peoples.

 

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Places in Turkey:

 

Map

This map is intended to show the relative locations of cities, towns and sites of interest to tourists.


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Istanbul

Istanbul, with approximately twelve million people, is by far Turkey’s largest city.  It is also one the world’s most beautiful and affordable large cities.  Being located on the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul has an extensive scenic coast.   It was also the capital city of two of history’s great empires:  The Byzantine and Ottoman.

 

Istanbul is a gem for tourists.  It can be difficult to decide which sites to visit because there are so many choices.  For more information of this subject, please review our tour programs.  If you want to make your own program, then our “Visitor-designed Tours of Istanbul” is just what you need.  Although one or two day tours of Istanbul are routine, it really isn’t enough time to properly visit the city.  Many visitors say 3-5 days are sufficient.

 

Although Istanbul is a very large city, it is definitely less stressful than other major cities and it certainly is not dangerous.  We hope you will see for yourself.

 

NOTE:  Because of the city’s fame and history, some people might use the name Constantinople.  This name is historical and should be used only when referring to the time of the Byzantine Empire.

 

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Cappadocia

This region is located in central Turkey.  It is easily reached by plane from Istanbul or by car from Ankara.  The region is mentioned in the Bible and it has a very unusual landscape characterized by large conical structures (humorously called fairy chimneys) of soft stone.  The soft stone was easy for early residents to hollow out the conical structures and ravine faces for their homes, churches and animals.  Because hostile forces occasionally swept through, the residents made their structures defensive as well as hidden.  The best examples of this are the extensive underground cities that are not apparent from above ground.

 

For a long time Cappadocia had a large Christian population.  This is apparent in the number of old churches and monastery complexes.  The region also has a number of Greek houses dating from the Ottoman period.  Cappadocia also has unusual wines due to their ancient storage techniques.

 

Please review our programs for some of the excellent tour possibilities.  Cappadocia also offers opportunities for trekking.  For trekking or other special interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.

 

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Interior of Anatolia

Turkey’s Asian part is properly called Anatolia rather than by its ancient Roman name of Asia Minor.  The interior of this region is a high, immense and undulating plateau that is surrounded by relatively high coastal mountains.  In as sense it is like a fortress which is a role it has played many times.  It is fairly dry and generally has a low humidity and cool nights.  Summers are sunny and can be hot but this should not discourage visitors because even during the hottest days it is not difficult to cool off.

 

Anatolia is big and it has a wealth of interesting things to offer the visitor:

  • Cappadocia with its unusual geological formations and history.
  • The capital city of Ankara with its outstanding Museum of Anatolian Civilizations.
  • The archeological site of Catal Hoyuk is considered to be the world’s earliest established community to be discovered.
  • Sites from some of the oldest empires as well as the more recent ones.
  • Sites of religious significance.
  • Picturesque towns such as Safranbolu with its large collection of Ottoman houses.
  • Relics of the ancient Silk Road such as caravanserais, hans and covered markets.

 

Please review our programs for some of the tour possibilities.  For special interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.

 

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Aegean Sea

Turkey’s Aegean region is the area between the Aegean Sea’s long coastline and the interior plateau.  This region is characterized by sea, scenic views, a Mediterranean climate and it has many outstanding Hellenistic & Roman era ruins.  There is no better place in the world for visiting the best-preserved ancient sites including Ephesus, Pergamum, Afrodisias, Priene, Didyma and Miletus.  Remarkably, Turkey has more ancient Greek ruins (and in better condition) than Greece.  The same is also true for ancient Roman ruins compared to Italy!

 

A number of sites in this region are also of significant religious importance such as the Seven Churches and the Ecumenical Councils held at Ephesus and Nicaea (modern Iznik).

 

Please review our programs for some excellent tours of classical ruins, sites of religious significance as well as for relaxing & scenic cruises.  For special interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.

 

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Mediterranean Sea

Turkey’s Mediterranean region is long, rugged and scenic.  There are many well-preserved classical ruins from a variety of city states such as Olympos, Termessos, Perge, Aspendos, Side, Tios and Xanthos.  Along the coast there are number of cruise possibilities to view the region’s scenery and some ancient sites.  The ancient city of Antioch, important for its religious history, is at the eastern end of Turkey’s Mediterranean region.

 

Please review our programs for tours into Turkey’s Mediterranean region and for relaxing & scenic cruises.  For special interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.

 

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Black Sea

Turkey’s Black Sea region is the least visited region.  It never fails to surprise visitors because it is exceptionally green and lush.  The eastern part of the region has the dramatic, spruce-covered Kackar Mountains with their alpine meadows that come alive each summer with the return of the Laz who are one of Turkey’s most colorful groups.  They are well known in Turkey for their cheerfulness, colorful costumes, joyous dances (everyone is welcome to join in!) and unique music.

 

Almost all sites of historical or religious interest are also located in the eastern part of this region.  Among these are a number of interesting ancient Georgian churches and a former Greek Orthodox monastery that is perched on a surprisingly high cliff.

 

This region has the greatest trekking and white water rafting possibilities for all of Turkey.  But because it is the least visited region, it has only a limited choice of facilities and services.  We currently have no programs for this region but we can always develop special interest programs.  Please contact our head office in Istanbul.

 

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Eastern & Southeastern Turkey

This is a large, varied and fairly dry region.  It’s character and appearance is more “Middle Eastern”.  It has the Tigris & Euphrates Rivers, several sites of religious significance, functioning Syrian Orthodox monasteries as well as some exceptional ancient ruins.

 

Visits to and from this region require domestic flights because it is far from Turkey’s major cities.  Also, because it is a big region, sometimes a long ride is necessary between sites though the scenery between and at the sites is interesting.  Usually visitors to eastern Turkey have already toured one or more regions of Turkey on a previous trip, although this is by no means a requirement!  The region is not frequently visited and it is conservative (best to keep shoulders and legs covered).  Parts of eastern Turkey experienced a period of civil unrest that was frequently reported (and sometimes misreported).  The unrest has passed.  The region is now experiencing significant improvements, particularly because of an enormous broad-based development project called GAP.  It is safe to travel in eastern Turkey and no doubt it would be a very rewarding and memorable visit.

 

Please review our programs for some of the tour possibilities.  For special interest programs, please contact our head office in Istanbul.

 

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The Turkish Republic:

 

Atatürk

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was instrumental in the formation of the Turkish Republic.  He was a career soldier who distinguished himself during World War I defending the Dardanelles.  After the war he simultaneously led a successful resistance against foreign occupation forces and laid the groundwork for the creation of the republic.

 

Not long after the creation of the republic, Atatürk resigned from his military position to pursue what turned out to be an impressive career as a statesman.  He was instrumental in rapidly accelerating the “westernization” of Turkey.  His numerous achievements were remarkable and far-reaching.  His history and accomplishments are recorded in many books and make for interesting reading.

 

Atatürk is a very important figure in modern Turkey.  His image is in every office.  Turks are very reverent of Atatürk and the things he stood for.  He is frequently quoted.  One quote in particular was very important in his time and continues to be so, ‘Peace at home and peace in the world.’

 

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The Government and the military

Turkey has a secular parliamentary democracy with several political parties.  Coalition politics are the norm and this sometimes presents a challenge each time a new coalition needs to be formed.  Perhaps unique in the world, Turkey’s military is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the democratic process of the republic is not threatened.  The Turkish military is stoutly secular and it has a mission to ensure that republic continues to be so.

 

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Concerns:

Safety

Turkey is a very safe country and has been so for more than 20 years.  Visitors have frequently commented that they felt safer and more comfortable in Turkey than in many other places they have visited.  Pick pocketing is known but not all that common.  If you are in the habit of following some common procedures such as keeping your valuables close to you, etc., then you will most likely never have a problem.

 

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Health (drinking water & immunizations)

The tap water in Turkey’s cities is chlorinated.  However most people choose to drink bottled water instead because the tap water may have a taste.  Several brands of bottled water are widely available and inexpensive.  Please don’t worry about using tap water to brush your teeth or to rinse a bunch of grapes, etc.

 

No immunizations are required for traveling to or within Turkey.  However, those individuals who wish to lower their risk of contracting certain diseases are advised to discuss immunizations with their doctor as there may be issues related to an individual’s age, side effects, pregnancy and allergies.

 

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Earthquakes

Turkey has a number of active fault lines.  This should not discourage anybody from visiting.  The earthquake of 1999 was significant but it didn’t affect any of Turkey’s tourist sites nor the tourist infrastructure.  The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul has stood up to earthquakes for 1,500 years and its very likely to be standing after the next one.

 

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Terrorism

Hopefully the world will not forget the tragedy in New York City & Washington, D.C. on 11 September.  Understandably concerns about terror increased all over the world.  Turkey has had no serious terrorist problems for a long time.  Security procedures were in place long before 11 September because of events that happened years ago when there was civil unrest in eastern Turkey (now since passed).  Tourists most certainly haven’t been targeted.  You are encouraged to visit, and when you do, no doubt you will find the country to be safe and secure.

 

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